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Report: Inequity in Graduate Student Borrowing

January 14, 2020

Student loan debt for graduate students is up, and black students are the hardest hit, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.

The report looked at the $37 billion in student debt that U.S. graduate students accrue each year, and found that this amount increased by 7 percent between the 2010-11 and 2017-18 academic years. In contrast, undergraduate student debt decreased by 21 percent during that time period. Undergraduate enrollment has also decreased more substantially than graduate enrollment.

Equity is also an issue with the debt problem, the report found. Almost 80 percent of black students take out federal loans for graduate school, compared to 56 percent of white students. When looking at the median amounts borrowed, black students borrowed 25 percent more than white students, according to the report.

The report also found that black students need higher education levels to achieve earnings similar to their white peers, but they are less likely to hold fellowships or assistantships when in research and scholarship-based doctorate programs.

“Graduate student debt is an increasing problem in America, but given the substantial equity implications involved in confronting it, it’s critical that policymakers develop nuanced policy solutions to support women and people of color seeking to get an advanced degree,” said Ben Miller, vice president of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, in a news release.

The report proposed several policy ideas to consider to combat inequity, including creating price caps on graduate programs and requiring programs not to produce more debt than graduates can pay off.

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Madeline St. Amour

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